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Elite: Dangerous - Beta Round Up

I spent most of today catching up with the Elite: Dangerous Beta. I haven't got involved with this beta previously, so it was all new. 


I have been looking forward to Elite coming out, along with Star Citizen as I used to play a lot of Freelancer, and in my opinion, whilst limited there hasn't been anything that has come close to equalling it since. It's about time we had some more Space Combat sims. The genre has been taking a bit of a break and there is a lot there to pull on. 

Overall my first impressions are that it is a very very solid game, even in it's beta state. Sure it's glitchy, but it's a beta so you have to expect that. The graphics are fantastic, even on my old machine and there are already a decent number of systems and ships in there, and that is only going to grow. That said, if I were to sum up my time with the beta so far in one word, it would be "frustrating". The combat is almost there, but not quite there yet, and the long distance travel is clunky. Docking becomes tiresome, and there are only a few of these things that have been addressed in game so far. 

Lets start with the quick one. Docking. You will do this. You will do this lots. If you want to pick up stuff to trade, pick up a new mission, pick up something for a mission or drop something off, or simply if you need to repair or refuel you will do. Why you have to do this manually by default I have no idea. Sure, you can get a docking computer to do this for you in the game, and it is relatively cheap at 4500 credits (you can make this in a few trade runs or missions) but we are assured it is not as good as a human pilot can be, and it gets glitchy if something bumps or rams you. I am not sure who decided landing a ship on a relatively small pad inside a rotating space station was going to be fun, but it wasn't me. 

Similarly, long distance travel is not yet polished. I went with the image I did for the article as you will see suns in close up a lot as well. There are three forms of travel in Elite that I encountered so far. You two long distance options are jump drives that take you through hyperspace for travel between star systems, and frame shifting that takes you in high speed in a "super-cruise" mode within star systems. Then you have your thrusters for close distances and dog fighting. There is a lot about the system I like. The different functionality of the different drives is cool, and the "super-cruise" is good as a mechanic as it allows you to intercept players or be intercepted so pirating is a viable option, people don't just jump into the middle of safe space all the time. There is also the inclusion of fuel tanks so you will get into the habit of re-fuelling at your space station stops as well as picking up missions or cargo. But something needs to be done about the jump drives. When you jump you set your target star system. So far so good. You can only set the system as a whole, no parts within it, but I can deal with that. What does bug me though is that every time you jump in, you drop out of hyperspace pretty much in the middle facing the star. That's pretty good for snarling you up and stopping you getting in to super-cruise with any kind of efficiency. You do have an emergency stop that will stop your ship before it flies you into the star, but you will end up in there if you're not paying attention. Some kind of hyperspace launching and landing pads in more useful places in the system would make much more sense. I can see why they chose the option they did from a game play mechanic, but then have people jump in to the habitable zone of a star system, and just make it so you don't jump in close to planets because of the risk of landing in the planet or something. People still have some chance to intercept you, and you don't get the super close ups of stars every jump. 

Combat. Comabt in Elite so far is a lot of fun. It is complex, and this is a deliberate decision. Yaw (turn left/right) is deliberately slow, and the focus for fast movement is on roll and pitch. Want to turn right? Roll 90 degrees right, then pull up. This is so you can't just sit in one place using your ship as a turret, and you have to move around in fights. And overall it works and makes them pretty exciting. But, there is a lot to learn. Poor NPC pilots I can deal with fine. People who are supposed to be traders and the like. Put me against what is supposed to be a decent pilot, like a pirate and I was getting chopped up. I found my best bet here was to run. There are combat training missions though, and you can practice. There are also plenty of videos to watch and things to try, but you probably won't get it all in one afternoon. If you fancy a bit of a challenge, this is it. I suspect you will find the most difficult opponents to be other players who have been playing a while, but I didn't get into a fight with anyone so far. From reading the forums as well though, those who don't make it as a combat ace won't be alone. 

Overall, I liked it, and from what I have seen so far, I am pleased it is as far as it is, and I am looking forward to the full release. Would I recommend it? On what I have seen so far, yes as long as it lives up to its promise and gets a bit more of a polish. I would caution anyone who wants to pick it up as a casual gamer though. The complexity of the controls, the dog fighting, from this so far it is pretty in depth and you may find the game frustrating or not all aspects of play really open to you. 

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